Herman Cain has surged from the back of the pack to join the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. A Fox News poll released this week puts Cain into "what is essentially a three-way tie" with Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Mostly at the expense of stumbling frontrunner Perry, Cain nearly tripled his numbers since the last Fox poll, thanks to strong performances in three September debates and a surprise win in Florida's straw poll. Commentators have treated the former Godfather's Pizza CEO as a novelty candidate up to now. Is it time to take him seriously?

Cain is a real threat to the frontrunners: Forget Chris Christie, says Nia-Malika Henderson at The Washington Post. Herman Cain is the GOP's "next big thing." He "has wowed debate audiences with his preacherly cadence, his humor, and his pizza slogan-worthy 9-9-9" tax plan — a 9 percent income tax, 9 percent corporate tax and a new 9 percent national sales tax. Plus, Cain is "a black man in a party that has battled charges of racism." If his rivals didn't see him as a "true threat" before, they should now.
"Herman Cain: The GOP's next big thing?"

Hold on. He's still a real longshot: It's "starting to look slightly more plausible" that Cain could win the nomination, says Brian Montopoli at CBS News, but he "remains a serious longshot." This new Fox News poll might help him raise money — and his profile — but he still can't compete with the organizational and money-raising networks of his better-known rivals. Remember Iowa's straw poll? Cain bombed there even though the state is full of the social conservative voters he attracts. He simply lacked the resources to put in "a serious effort."
"How far can Herman Cain go?"

He can't win — but he's a "pleasure" to watch: "Gotta say this for Herman Cain: He truly believes in his own candidacy," says Tina Korbe at Hot Air. He's so "upbeat and on-point" that it's a "pleasure" watching him campaign. "But it's also not hard to see why he's perceived as unelectable." He has zero political experience, and that alone is enough to keep him from getting nominated.
"Herman Cain's crowded calendar"